When the rooster crows

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‘Every man for himself’ is at the heart of American Christian ministry. Now that is a dirty little secret that not many would admit to but I can say with all confidence that it is exactly the truth. When it is all said and done, most of us are nothing but religious corporations who depend more on fickle public approval trends than real politicians do.

I heard a preacher say recently that all of what we perceive of as “ministry success” boils down to the fact that people love a winner and despise a loser. When crowds are coming and smiles abound, everyone wants to be near you. But when that tide appears to change, people jump off board so fast it will make your head spin.

Like many of our American politicians who are really nothing but poll whores and puppets, changing their stances depending on which way they feel best preserves them, so both ministers and members alike throw their approval behind whatever will enhance and not harm them.

Look back at the last 30 years of ministry here in the US and let me throw out some names to you; Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Larry Lea, Mike Warnke. All of those men were “top” names at one time in the church. And every one of them had the tide of public opinion turn on them. When it did, we turned on them as well. We got rid of their books and records, threw out their teachings and denied that we ever knew them at all.

I can not really imagine what that felt like for these men. One minute, they were surrounded by people who supported them and loved the ministry that God had them doing. The next moment, they looked around and found no one there anymore. They had gone from being celebrated by the church to virtual religious pariahs, social outcasts, in the blink of an eye. And man, did we ever take notice of their fate as ministers of the Gospel. In the span of a few short years of public witch trials, the most terrifying thing that we could think of was no longer standing before the judgment seat of Christ; it was sharing the fate of those that had stood before the judgment seat of Primetime Live or professional heresy hunters and been declared guilty.

So to prevent sharing their fate, we as ministers began to court the public and keep our nose as clean as possible. We stopped rocking the boat and just said what people wanted to hear. We became slaves to what people thought about us and by playing the game properly, we began to see mega-churches spring up all over. The recipe you are to use is fairly simple: Just repeat the following over and over until you are as big as you want to be- God has a plan for just you, God wants you to prosper financially, positive self-image is God’s ideal for you, you can have all that you want and God will help you, once you are saved you are always saved. Avoid the negative, focus on the positive and people will come to hear you. And if people are coming, it must be God.

There is just one problem with that- it isn’t true.

The bible says that “They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.”1 John 4:5. Of course people are coming to hear them; they are speaking the language of the world. They are motivational speakers that give the added benefit of promising eternal life and divine favor in exchange for your approval. I can’t imagine people not wanting to come and hear that sort of thing to be honest. If I offered a thousand dollars to whoever answered an altar call, would I be shocked to see the altar full? What if I charged a thousand for the honor of answering the call, what would happen then?

And so we live in an age of preachers for hire, Balaams’ crisscrossing the globe teaching whatever the people want them to teach. And in exchange, we remain on the safe side of the bema of public opinion and can continue to make our living doing what we love. We placate ourselves by thinking that at least they are getting some truth when they come to hear us; at least they are getting some Jesus. But a little religion won’t save you and there is no resurrection for you at all without going through the death of the cross.

This mercenary thinking has trickled down to every area of the Christian life. As an Evangelist, when things are going well, people want nothing more than to have their name attached to yours. Once that pendulum swings, they want nothing more than to not have their name attached to yours. When there is a buzz about you, they all want to cozy up and bask in it with you. But when hard times come, they all deny they ever knew you at all.

I have sat astonished myself as I watched this little dance unfold time and time again in my own life. When I get discovered (which happens all of the time) then I am celebrated and the ministry applauded as being cutting edge and the “next big thing”. But when I struggle and the enemy comes in to attack, I look around and discover I am more like Uriah the Hittite than David. Because when I stepped up to fight and the battle was joined- I looked around and everyone else had stepped back until they saw for sure which way the outcome was going to go.

If I win and gain the victory they will all clap and pretend that they were there all along as they sing songs of my bravery in the face of the enemy. If it goes badly, they never knew me at all. If it goes really badly and they could be hurt by their association with me, then it was God who judged me.

I am sure that some of you thought exactly that when you read the names of those ministers earlier. Jim Bakker was a crook and God exposed him, Jimmy Swaggart was a judgmental pervert and God exposed him, Larry Lea was a greedy liar and God exposed him, Mike Warnke lied about his testimony and God exposed him.

So what are you guilty of that God needs to expose? A recent study found that upwards of 70% of Pastors view online pornography at least once a week. Is that you, speaking to the sheep on Sunday morning and masturbating to online porn on Saturday night? Or are you simply a liar, a glutton or a self righteous religious bigot? Or maybe you haven’t prayed in a month or cracked your bible in 2 months and yet you get up there and like a Pharisee you show your white washed exterior while inside you are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.

The real issue is not that those men fell; it is what we did as it happened. I believe that we really lost something important with Larry Lea, he got hit in a massive smear campaign and we gave him no chance to explain, we just wrote him off. Mike Warnke was honestly repentant but in the church the restoration is never as public as the fall. We have set a pattern into motion here in America that we should be horribly ashamed of. We are Peter, denying the Lord when it looked like he could be harmed by Jesus’ “fall”. We don’t know them, we were never with them, don’t judge us by them. So those who need support never get it because we are constantly prepared to ignore that they exist or stick a knife in them if we have to.

Oh God have mercy on all when we finally hear the rooster crow and see ourselves for what we really are- mercenaries without honor, in it only for ourselves, in Jesus’ name.

Personally I think the whole affair stinks to high heaven. I get very weary of the game, to be quite honest. I have to watch my back more around Christians than I ever did in the world. In the world, I had friends and I had enemies. My friends loved me for my good points and overlooked my faults. Just because I was shown to have issues did not disqualify me from being their friend. But in the church it does. I can’t think of anything more hypocritical than people judging others for this fault or that fault while harboring a thousand faults that just haven’t been exposed yet. It is truly pathetic in every sense of the word.

Because we are not here to be politicians, we are here to be an army. But if any army in the world acted like we do they would be overrun by the enemy. The very fact that we are not overrun tells me that not only are we not any threat at all, we are more than likely the Keystone Cops of the Spirit world, more entertaining in our folly than actually a serious force to be reckoned with.

So how do we deal with this pattern that we have all set in motion? Is there any way out of this cycle that we are all caught in?

We must begin right where we live with one word: love. We must love one another enough to help when help is needed. We must honor what others are doing for the Lord and throw in our lot with them to help see it come about and forget about what the court of public opinion will say if they fail. We must honor our relationships with one another no matter what happens and make the decision to never leave a man behind. Above all, we must start to place ourselves in other’s people place and ask ourselves what we would need if it were us in their place.

And don’t even utter the word revival until you are prepared to do all of those things. Because when that word is spoken and steps are taken in that direction- the enemy will take notice and the fight will start. If we are the type to play Peter and deny others when they get into trouble, the enemy will pick us apart one by one until none are left standing any longer. I have seen it played out a hundred times, the mercenary spirit that comes into the church when the real attacks start and scatters everyone involved to the four winds because we are simply too weak, too selfish and too petty to just hold the line as the enemy charges.

When the enemy comes in, we get most concerned about ourselves. And it is with the banner “MY FUTURE” flying proudly above our heads that we break ranks and leave our fellow soldiers to hold the line alone. And what kind of army is that?

Before we utter revival maybe we should take a moment and listen for the rooster’s crow before we say we are ready for a move of God.

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The Corpse of God


“Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I am looking for God! I am looking for God!”

As many of those who did not believe in God were standing together there, he excited considerable laughter.

“Have you lost him, then?” said one. “Did he lose his way like a child?” said another. “Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? or emigrated?”

Thus they shouted and laughed. The madman sprang into their midst and pierced them with his glances. “Where has God gone?” he cried. “I shall tell you. We have killed him – you and I. We are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon?

What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns?

Are we not perpetually falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space?

Has it not become colder? Is it not more and more night coming on all the time? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God’s decomposition?

Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves?

It has been further related that on that same day the madman entered divers churches and there sang a requiem. Led out and quietened, he is said to have retorted each time: “What are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”

Friedrich Nietzsche

“Joyous Wisdom”

God is dead. What a frightening thought. To think that the universe spins out of control, perched delicately on an axis that He created, seconds or minutes or hours from the moment when the centrifugal force proves too much and the inevitable tumbling into oblivion takes place.

To think that he is gone, that our lives spent in loving service have been for nothing and no one except for a God who no longer exists.

We are faced every day with more proof that God is indeed dead. We watch the televisions here in America every night; see the massacres in Rwanda or the Genocide in Croatia. We see the young black men killing themselves in record numbers or hear stories of mothers tossing babies into dumpsters or selling them into child porn for a fix.

We as Christians insulate ourselves from the harshness of the world that we live in rather than deal with any of these things. We need more reality positioned about two inches from our face because that is the world we live in. Not the frilly interior designed pre-fab world that Christians surround themselves with.

Rather it is the dark dirt, the black-foaming sewer of real life that is right outside our doors.

It is the view of a world living in the reality of a dead god. And we have created that reality for them. We the Christians have killed god for all intents and purposes.

Like the movie from a few years ago called Weekend at Bernies. We show up for our Christian get-togethers lugging in tow a dead body that we try to present as alive. We kneel in church buildings when we should. We say all the right words. We have a spiritual excuse for every single wrong that happens.

Like a magician who specializes in luring the eye away from where it should be, we are common street hustlers and our hustle is religion.

We tell everyone that God is alive and well. We add to our repertoire several stories that we have heard that help to corroborate this fallacy. Then we sit back and perfect our inner spiritual journey while the world feeds on the filth of its own demise.

And we call it good.

We stand bloody-handed over the body that housed God. And then add insult to injury by painting the corpse up in some mock imitation of whatever representation we need at the moment. We carry that corpse up into whatever building we can afford and prop him up for all the world to see. Not to gaze at the awesome power of the creator, oh no. No, we instead prop him up so that everyone can tell that we have managed to tame him. We have him controlled by our dogma, our statement of faith, our by-laws and boards.

Its safe to come in with us, we cry, look how peaceful he is!

Shocking? Maybe. But it is also the truth. This world is dying everywhere around us while we compromise. The masses are herded over the cliffs of eternity while we posture. It is unbelievable to me. It is incomprehensible how some people can continue to choose to be asleep in the light while the world burns.

And yet here we are. Beyond all reason, here we are. We continue to worship the monument rather than the creator. We continue to make cheap excuses and formulas rather than dare to ask the questions. And so we have killed God.

We have killed him in the minds of the world that surrounds us. They see our blatant disregard for the tenets of the faith and stand in transfixed awe at our stupidity. We posture as if he is alive and blessing us but where is he?

When I see preachers in some churches driving overly expensive automobiles and being given sympathy cruises to the Bahamas, I hope that God is behind the blessing.

But I have gone out to the reservations to preach to the First Nation. I have worked with the homeless kids in downtowns across America. I have seen the preacher on the reservation that no one cares about, who works three jobs to provide not only for his family but for the church as well.

I have prayed with the preacher who has quietly endured a living hell so that the sheep are safe. I have hugged and loved the AIDS victim living out his last moments in a free hospice and been told that no church has ever come to see him because he is gay.

And I scream at the sheer audacity of these charlatan thieves. The world thinks God dead because we have settled for the lie. Rather than dare to live in the reality of God, we choose the safer path.

The disease of the church is systemic and real change can only come to it from outside of it. The church speaks to themselves for themselves and shine one another’s unused armor while the world burns and the graveyards fill with the bodies of those who have lived and died in a world where God was dead.

I know many of you recoil at me saying that God is dead over and over. But let me ask you, if he is not- could you tell me what he looks like?

Is God clean or dirty? Is he rich or poor? Is he beautiful or ugly? Is God a capitalist, placing money above the needs of the poor and degenerate among us? Is he a Republican or Democrat? Is he a socialist or communist, placing all power in the hands of the state and stripping people of their rights and identity? Is he middle class, upper class or lower class? What does he look like?

I used to think that God looked like a TV preacher or an ancient Greek God, high up on the mountain hurling lightning bolts.

But now I know the truth. God looks like the suffering, the broken and the wounded. God looks like the homeless man and the hopeless drunk. God looks like the one you would least expect because his heart is just not in the same place as ours is.

In the film Entertaining Angels, Dorothy Day, exhausted from a life of serving the outcast and the poor, runs to a church to pray. Looking up at a statue of Jesus, she breaks down and appeals to him in a raw, heart-wrenching way.

She says to God: “Where are you? Why don’t you answer me? I need you! These brothers and sisters of yours, the ones you want me to love, let me tell you something. They smell! They have lice and tuberculosis! Am I to find you in them?—Well, you’re ugly! You stink! You wet your pants! You vomit! How could anyone love you?”

But she did love them and by doing so, she loved Christ.

So, I have this to say, friends. God is not dead. We are. We have forgotten whose we are and whom we serve. We have been playing marbles with diamonds. And shame on us. Shame on us for what we have done.

But remember this one thing; Leonard Ravenhill said that revival is what happens when God gets so sick and tired of being misrepresented that he shows himself.

We need a revival of remembering, a revival of humility and meekness. We need a revival of the genuine selfless love of Christ. We need a revival of purity, power and hope.

We need a revival of true Christianity in an age of Laodicean compromise.

Because the world doesn’t need our churches or our programs, they need our Jesus and no one is talking about him anymore.

Doctrinal Distinctives: Communion

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I want to write a bit here about Communion. When you deconstruct everything and look at it from a new perspective, everything must be prayerfully considered that you put back into place. We have been working on several other elements of the service and giving the folks a chance to acclimatize to the changes week by week. These are big changes, not just in the structure of services but in our Christian worldview as well. It is a lot to digest.

So this last week we began a new Communion service.

We dimmed the lights as everyone sat on beanbags and slowly began to raise the volume of the soundtrack to the evening, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2. We called it the U2charist, you know, we’ve just dressed up the Lord’s Table with a little funky flair, just to keep things relevant…

Sorry, I couldn’t help it. We didn’t do that, put down the pitchforks and torches.

Though I must admit that I had never had all that much use for Communion myself.

Most of those in my circles never had a Communion service either. It was considered to be “religion”. And religion is bad because Pharisees were religious and so if you were religious then you were a Pharisee and not really saved. So, I never had all that much use for Communion because I wanted to be saved and not a religious Pharisee. Get it?

It was just a tradition and as we all knew, Jesus told the Pharisees that “by your tradition you make the Word of God of no effect”.

And so I inhabited a world with no traditions, no ties to the past, no observances and the religion of no religion. I knew more than everyone else and I felt superior that I was so spiritual that I didn’t actually need to be obedient to the commands because in some magical mystery tour way, I appropriated by faith the truth and didn’t need the outward forms.

I mean, I got it and all. I understood the body and the blood and the covenant and whatnot. I just truly felt that so long as you understood the principle, you didn’t need to actually do it. And I am not alone, not by a long shot.

The shift in mindsets can be amazing, can’t it? In the 1600’s, Communion was a four-day event. They all fasted on Thursday, the Pastor would preach a sermon about repentance on Friday, everyone confessed their sins and was questioned on Saturday and then they took Communion on Sunday. What a change from today!

We are all the product of the teaching that Communion is an ordinance to obey, to one degree or another. For most, it is something that you should do once a month or once every six months. For me, it was also one of the driest, most tortuous events in the Church, right up there with board meetings.

To be fair, there were usually those people in the service that really seemed to love Communion and basked in the glow of His love as they went through the forms. And I am not knocking you if you are one of those. I just want you to know that secretly I thought that either you were faking it or that you were a Pharisee, just so you know.

Down to business here, we all know the drill. We get our oyster cracker and teeny little cup of grape juice. The Pastor reads the same Last Supper text that he always has;

“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me”.

This is the part where you eat your oyster cracker after the Pastor says, “Let us partake”. My wife always hated that part when he said that, she always asked who talks like that except the preacher during Communion? I guess they feel like it adds depth to the event. It needs it.

Then the Pastor continues,

“After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.”

Then we are invited to “partake” of the teeny-tiny grape juice cup.

And then they collect the cups and you have done your bit; you have obeyed the ordinance!

Now, I am not going to wax deep on the mystery of Communion, I will leave that to better men than I to do if they feel so led. Books can, have and should be written on the subject and I can do it no justice here. I will say however that I think that we have cheapened the whole event and by our relegation of it to an ordinance and a tradition that we simply obey, we have made it of no effect.

The key for me in the changeover to the Communion that we practice now lay in the verse; “this do in remembrance of me”. I never fully understood that verse, I mean, I know His story and I am quite sure that I won’t forget it. You know, virgin birth, sinless life, loaves and fishes…?

But I don’t think that this is what Jesus meant.

I think that we do forget Him every single day. I also think that the preparation for Communion is there to help us remember that we have forgotten Him and have followed after our own lusts, our pet sins and the omission of Him from who we are all week long.

We forget Him; we completely forget that He is there; the “resident Boss” that Watchman Nee talks about is neither resident in our thoughts nor boss of what we do.

How else could you explain the fact that the majority of Christian men view online pornography, other than they have forgotten Him? Because if they remembered that Jesus was present in them, do you think that they would subject Him to viewing that? Would they allow their eyes to be used that way, knowing that Jesus was in them at that moment?

How about the liar, who swindles people by small white lies? Has he forgotten?

What about the housewife that has not had an affair yet but peeks out the window at the neighbor and wishes? Has she forgotten? Or the church member engaged in gossip, malice or strife, what about them? How about those who split churches, lie on taxes, betray a friend? What of those who are just self-involved, self-important, self-absorbed? Have those who are so narcissistic as to believe that due to the importance of the call of God on their life that they can sow discord, church hop, destroy relationships, and never submit to any authority but their own as climb to the top, have they forgotten who they are and whom they serve?

You bet they have.

Have we all forgotten that we are supposed to be living in identification with Him, crucified with Him? That we died and the life we live, we live by the faith of Him who died for us?

We have forgotten and do forget Him every single day. And the reason that we do not know that we have forgotten him is because we live in a state of anarchy, apart from the rule of law and the heart of God, with no conviction of sin or desire to conform to His death.

And of course the Communion is stale, it is stale because we have, all of us, forgotten Him and we have become stale ourselves.

And this is what I hated, this idea that though we were so full of sin and selfishness, we still partake as if it is nothing because it IS nothing to us. The whole thing meant nothing to almost all involved. You got quiet, sure. You appeared to be reflecting, yes. But nothing happened, not in you and not in the service either. It was a function that you had to do because you were a “christian” and that is all. But that is a lie and not at all what Jesus intended. I was tired of the shallowness and deeply hungry for something meaningful and so I began to study.

So, of course, for our Communion, we again went back to the faith of our fathers.

We have the Ushers hand out small index cards and pens to everyone present. After everyone gets theirs, we ask everyone present to please take some time and write down every sin that they have committed since their last Communion. If they need to get up and walk around, so that people do not see what they are writing, that is fine. But be honest before God and confess your sins.

We then collect the cards from everyone in a single basket and hand them off to one of the Ministers. He then takes them to the front and using the microphone, begins to read off what is written down. He has been instructed that if the sin is obviously attributable to someone, he can skip it.

Everyone is uncomfortable. And you are bowled over by the sheer volume of sin that is present in the church. No different from the world, not a lick different.

We tell everyone to please bow their heads and close their eyes and then ask a few direct questions of them:

1. Do you understand that what you have committed is sin?
2. Do you understand that sin is not to have power over you as your master?
3. Do you know whom it is that you have sinned against?
4. Have you asked forgiveness from the person you wronged?
5. Have you made restitution for what you’ve done?
6. Do you repent for your sins and resolve to pursue holiness in the fear of God?

After this, we pray the prayer of confession:

Let us humbly confess our sins unto Almighty God.

Almighty and most merciful Father, like lost sheep we have strayed from your holy ways, we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts as we have disregarded your holy laws, we have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done. But you, O Lord, have mercy upon us, as we know that you forgive those who humbly confess their faults, and that you restore those who are penitent, according to your promises declared to humankind in Christ Jesus our Lord; Grant to us, O most merciful God, for his sake, that from this day forward we live a godly and righteous life, to the glory of your holy Name. Amen.

The Pastor then asks everyone to stand and he reads over the congregation the Absolution:

The Almighty and merciful Lord grant us absolution and remission of all our sins, true repentance, amendment of life, and the grace and consolation of his Holy Spirit. If anyone is in Christ they are a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. Amen.

Our Communion bread is one loaf of bread, which the Pastor breaks, as Jesus’ body was broken. The people are invited to come forward, beginning with the elderly, after them, whole rows of people, starting with the very back. The Pastor holds out the broken loaf on his right and left for the people to take their piece from. A Minister distributes the Communion cups at the sides, after they have taken their piece of the bread.

As the people return to their seats, a brief word is given about what the Body and Blood is for and an admonishment that Communion is the renewal of covenant and the fresh decision to identify in His death, it is submission to the process of God which crucifies our flesh and conforms us to His life. It is the fresh stamp of the Imago Dei on our hearts.

After this, we begin our Lovefeast.

Battlelines: The Wal-Mart Church

So, I have watched as the church has transformed over the last 21 years. Actually, it has been even longer than that because I have been around some aspect of the church my entire life. When I was growing up, it was in a small Pentecostal church in Pennsylvania. The church was never large, that was not even on the radar in those days. The question was one of effectiveness, not numbers.

If someone were getting saved, delivered or healed, the church was a success. They might struggle for finances or stay in the same building for 30 years without anyone raising the question of whether or not they were supposed to be there. If God was present, that closed the issue.

When I was first saved, it was pretty much the same. In fact, if you were a big church it probably meant that you had compromised something vital in order to get the numbers up. The focus was still not on size but rather quality of ministry, purity of the Word spoken and effectiveness in evangelism.

Back then there was still street ministry and witnessing that took place, imagine that. And a preacher could still get a crowd if he came to town. If you spit hard enough you would hit an evangelist in shiny shoes. True story. I began my ministry as an Evangelist, first on the streets and then travelling from town to town.

Then Swaggart and Bakker happened. Suddenly, being an Evangelist was linked to money and televangelist flash and it became one of the least popular professions in the country. Pretty soon, you couldn’t find an Evangelist to save your life, unless it was in Africa. Everyone here in America started being “teachers” (during the Word of Faith craze) and then later “prophets” (during the prophetic movement).

Today we just have a hole where a foundational gift to the church used to be.

During these years we also saw the rise of the monster named Rex Walmartasaurus in corporate America. They would plant one of these stores in a town and slowly drain the life from all of their competition. First it was the competition in the city falling by the wayside as Kmart, Shopko, Sears and many others started to tank. Wal-Mart offered everything and they offered it cheaper than everything else. And in a culture addicted to convenience, having everything available in one great location became like crack. Soon, small mom and pop stores had to start shutting the doors because they simply could not compete with the Wal-Mart juggernaut.

Even in the town where we live, prices are dollars higher per item in our local store than at Wal-Mart. And in a slow growth economy, who is going to drive around looking for different items when Goliath has everything right there at your fingertips.

So, small stores in small towns have been forced to adapt in order to survive. The only way to do that is by carving out a niche as a boutique and offering super specialized items that can’t be found at a big box store.

Get the picture? Our small towns have become bedroom communities as our industry moved to big cities and then our commercial businesses got smaller and more restricted in order to stay afloat. The big box dominates all and a person is hard pressed to start a business and prosper by offering goods and services to their own town. Everyone drives 30 minutes to the nearest Wal-Mart rather than pay higher prices for a smaller selection.

The same is true in the church and the changes took place at the same time.

Today, you have mega churches (where God is interested in what they are doing), upper-middle sized churches (that are on their way to being mega) and the small churches serving communities (where God ignores them because they are too small, because if you are from God, you gots to be big, baby).

The mega church offers everything: campuses designed to look like city streets with shops, bookstores, jungle gyms, Kids areas designed to look like castles, programs for everything from singles to the Latvian Lesbian midget support groups. Everything is right there at your convenience and you can rest assured that the teaching is good because the preacher is on TV, which is a sure sign of personal integrity, dedicated prayer lives and orthodox teaching. These are the Wal-Mart’s of the church world. Everyone from the area goes to these places because they can be anonymous, catered to, they are offered convenience and the chance to be a part of something big.

The mini mega church is like the Target chain. They have some of the good stuff, just less of it. But they really want to be a Wal-Mart and so they adapt to whatever Wal-Mart is doing. Ambition drives these churches, usually helmed by a preacher who is certain that he is the next big thing. They have all of the things that it is going to take to break the ceiling and become big and solidify what they have always known: they are from God (I am big! You like me, you really like me!).

At the same time that the fight for growth is occurring, you have those that don’t really matter laboring on anonymously inside of a small church. These churches are like bases in baseball where all of the church hoppers, ne’er-do-wells, dysfunctional elites and know-it-alls have to make brief stops before quitting the system altogether. They are usually hampered by a lack of finances, a lack of devotion, an overabundance of tourists and the crushing weight of ineffectiveness and obscurity.

Now, let me ask you; is this the way that it is supposed to be?

The answer that we need isn’t as simple as some would have us to believe. It is not a matter of the first church having met in houses and so we should meet in houses too. Because near as I can tell, church buildings and houses both have walls, floors, ceilings and windows. They are both buildings, Copernicus. The reason that the first church met in homes was because it was illegal to be a Christian, the synagogues (where they preferred to meet) were closed to them and they couldn’t build a temple.

No, the answer isn’t about location, style or format; it is all about motivations.

Why are any of us doing this? Is it to get rich or famous? If it is, go sit in the back of the bus.

Is it to fulfill our own ego by equating ministry success with personal worth? Go to the back of the bus.

Is it to control people and build a cult following? Sorry, back of the bus for you.

God needs a people that are interested in effectiveness rather than notoriety. We need to change our definition of success so that the question of God’s glory is included somewhere. We need to stop basing our determination of spiritual success on material possessions. And we need to start counting bodies healed, lives changed, hearts melted, lives repenting and salvations occurring as the primary gauge of ministry effectiveness.

We as ministers must start speaking the truth in love with boldness, no matter how large the congregation that God has us serving. We must hear from Him alone as to what He wants our branch of the government of God to be doing.

We must act as ambassadors, regardless of the region that we serve. We have to care for the poor, shower the region with common grace, preach boldly so that the elect hear the message and respond and change the spiritual temperature where we live. Bringing the Kingdom of God to where we live and making that area resemble heaven- that is our calling.

It has nothing to with the flesh, with numbers, with money. And many big time preachers sitting in big time churches are going to be in big time trouble when they approach the Bema and find out that God was more interested in how they treated a little obscure pastor or how they overlooked the poor and hurting than in how big of a building they built to house their congregation of spiritual pygmies.

Have you been reading the red and the book of Acts like I suggested in the last article? Then you should be ready for this next bit.

You will not find success in Christ by buying into the Wal-Mart doctrine. It isn’t through being clever or different that you will see numbers go up. That is the boutique mindset and it can only survive, not thrive. You won’t find personal fulfillment by chasing mega churches or mega preachers either. You will only find success as you get back to basics, shun the system, leave the camp and seek God. See, I have news for you preachers- numbers are no gauge as to God’s favor because it can be counterfeited. No, God’s favor comes through the fire, through prayer and through the breaking of a man until he resembles the Christ that he serves.

I want you to start acting today as if your life is under the hand of sovereign arrangement. Every person that you talk to, every setback that you experience, every temptation, trial and tribulation that comes your way has a hand behind it. The true quality of your life and ministry will be measured by your responses to the acts of God’s sovereign arrangements and by nothing else.

Many of the things that we do for God will not matter at all because they did not originate in God but in ourselves. But our responses to the things that have their origin in Him, they will mean everything.

So, forget the hype and the hoopla, the game and the boy’s club. Instead, consecrate your life to him, ask for the wisdom to see his sovereign arrangements and then live those moments as you saw Jesus live and teach about and the first church carry out. Being big isn’t important, being faithful and pure is.

Battlelines: The Preamble

Revolution is about the overthrow of one system for another. In the course of time, two ideas that once co-existed have finally become diametrically opposed to one another. At the outset of revolution, one side remains entrenched in power while the other side actively seeks to supplant it. This is revolution, friends, and never mind what the commercials tell you or what the trendy youth group says that it is. Revolution is messy, divisive, chaotic and uncomfortable. Real revolution is never pleasant; the two different sides will dig in and defend their positions, violently if necessary. This was just as true for David and Saul as it is in our day. When God begins to do a new thing, the old thing starts chucking javelins.

Today we find ourselves in a pre-revolutionary period in the church. All of the pieces are in place if you look for them. They are sitting there, simmering just under the surface, waiting for a spark, a move, a shot across the bow that will send the mighty wheel of revolution turning. This is the calm before the storm, that moment when détente is being practiced by diplomats and people are seeking ways to build a compromise that will leave everyone happy.

But there will be none of that. The gulf between mindsets is too far apart now. The ideas and ideals of the two parties can’t be brought together. Saul knows that David is the next thing, his kingdom is coming to an end and his only legacy will be a cautionary tale of humanism, corporatism, gimmicks and the substitution of the real for the gimmick.

It is my experience that people generally do not want to hear this truth. That is especially true in our world today. What we want instead is a series of affirmations that what we think, feel or do is right. We seek churches that will do this, ministries that will do this and read books that do this. When we hear that something that we have been believing is wrong, we immediately get defensive, it is just our humanist nature, I guess.

The history of the Christian church is one of progressive revelation. At times the church has forgotten this and tried to introduce something that had no basis in what God was previously doing. The result of this is always the same- error, heresy and shame. The Protestant church of the 20th century bears no similarities to the church of the 19th century. The Pentecostals have lost Azusa and the Methodist church only resembles Asbury and Wesley in name only. The Salvation Army has become thrift stores without salvation, an army of retailers and not revivalists. The reformed churches have forgotten Calvin and Knox while the Presbyterians have forgotten Red River.

We have forgotten who we are and have simply started just making things up that felt good to our flesh. But God instructs us his people line upon line, precept upon precept. The revelation of the previous generation becomes your foundation and God then adds to his grand story with the lines of your age.

Like all true revolutions, this one will occur when we make a decision that no matter what, we must get free or die. The disease of the church is systemic and the only ones that support what it has become are the fat cats that profit from it. For the rest of us, we cannot live in the system as it is set up and we can tolerate no compromise with it. And so we, like Moses, must leave the camp and seek God where he is.

The fault of where we find ourselves today can be laid at the feet of a few trends that have become the norm in the last 40 years or so and an older worldview that has infected us to our core. Let me be clear, these methods and worldviews have nothing to do with the progressive revelation of God but are rather compromises with the spirit of the age. And we must begin to see them as exactly that- a hindrance to revival and in enmity with God.

  1. The church growth movement with its emphasis on numbers and money as a gauge of success.
  2. The pragmatic mindset that excuses any gimmick, fad or phase as being from God if it works to appeal to the flesh of men.
  3. The corporate mindset that tells us that we should grow real big and offer everything to everyone, like Wal-Mart, then franchise our product all over. This mindset has caused the exact same “big-box store versus boutique” phenomenon in the church as it has in the world marketplace.
  4. The individualistic mindset that constantly focuses all attention and energy on the all-powerful ME.
  5. Finally, the humanistic mindset that places the highest priority on man and his existence rather than on God and his eternal glory.

This is American Churchianity. And like seeing an embattled and aged Ali sitting ringside at a boxing match, everyone knows what you used to be and pities what you have become.

God willing, this is the start of a new series that will begin to look at each of these things in detail and offer the alternative. What you do with this is up to you. I would encourage you to read what is written, prayerfully consider the implications and then commit yourself to the revolution with wild abandon.

A Body In Motion

I get tons of questions about our stances for the Lord, usually revolving around why I seem so darn angry. The majority of church folks just don’t see things from our perspective and it is easy to dismiss how I am or what I say as being “angry”.

Perspective is everything, it really is. For example, if you see a couple from behind walking down a street, him holding her close as they make their way down a dark section of town, you may assume that they are a couple and he is holding her protectively. However, what if you saw them from a different angle and saw that he was holding a weapon to her side? Why, your perception of the event would change and so would your reaction.

Or perhaps you see someone walking down a hallway and all of a sudden, they start pawing the air and wiping their face crazily. You might assume that they are a nut job and determine to stay as far away from them as possible because no human in their right mind would ever act that way. Of course, from a different perspective you might see that they had just walked into a cobweb hanging from the ceiling.

In older days, you could safely assume that if a Watchman on the wall cried “Danger!” there was a good reason for it. But in this crazy world that we live in, we simply do not trust anyone, especially Bible thumping preachers. It is almost as if we honestly believe that we can determine our own reality by choosing what watchman we listen to. If we don’t like the cry of warning coming from the south wall, we just choose to listen to the watchman at the west wall, who may or may not have the same field of view as the one raising the alarm. Or worse, he just may not care.

Today in America, any watchman who cries a warning is immediately marginalized and ignored. We prefer our watchman to build us up, telling us of our safety and of the good times that lay ahead. Those who cry loud and spare not are told that they are angry and are judging. Then they are left to starve out as all of the supply goes to the (un)holy windbags spouting worldly virtues and being nice.

Nice will not help us now, church.

Today we sit here in America with the economy in the tank, the world around us getting progressively worse each day as it revels in the godless lies of secular humanism and the signs that warn us of what is to come are growing louder and louder every single day and the church is still asleep in its ease. Now more than ever, you would think that someone would be raising the cry of alarm and waking the church. But the church sleeps on.

Newton’s First Law of Motion states that a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force. The church will not turn itself, my friends. Even the laws of the universe that God designed point to this fact. No, the disease of our church system is systemic; it affects the entire Body and not just one part. And every new teaching, every sissy men’s group, every seeker-sensitive church plant, every compromise of the truth used to gain new members, every silly television preacher simply giving the people the candy everyone wants, leads us further and further into the darkness. And every sign points to the church remaining safely on course, straight to oblivion.

We discard every voice of dissent that is raised and surround ourselves with voices that tell us those things which most closely line up with our personal theology. This is because in the end, we want to be proven right in what we believe. We don’t want to know the truth so much as we want to be right. We buy the books, attend the seminars and listen to the sermons of those who most closely align with our personal views. We attend the church that makes us comfortable, builds us up, and has the proper social standing. But most importantly, the church must align with our views. We never even consider aligning ourselves with God’s word instead.

To make matters worse, the church has been infiltrated by a spirit of Korah (Numbers 16:1-35). This spirit has crept in and spread its poison among our ranks, rendering much of the church ineffective and offering strange fire in the name of the Lord. It has whispered in our ears, “There is no clergy and laity, no difference between any of us; we are all called, all anointed and all able to do the work.” And how good this sounded to our ears in the church, how enticing to hear that we were all equal and therefore, we did not have to submit to any man at any time. How wonderful it was to our itching ears to hear that we didn’t have to listen to the watchman on the wall anymore! And as we rejoiced in our man-made democracy, the enemy laughed because he knew, above all, that when you smite the shepherd, you scatter the sheep.

And so he has and so it has been done. A body in motion will stay in motion, church. Once it begins, it cannot change its path nor slow its speed on its own. Any change that comes to it must come from outside it.

The second law of motion states that if an unbalanced force acts on a body, that body will experience acceleration (or deceleration), that is, a change of speed or direction. In order to change the speed or direction of a body in motion, there must be some unbalanced force acting upon it. It cannot be a balanced force because if the outside force is heading in the same direction at the same speed, it changes nothing. So, it must be coming from a different direction or a totally different speed. And that is you and I, my friend.

You see, while the enemy tried to convince us that something was wrong with us, that we were out of step and out of time, we were right where we were ordained to be. His only hope that the path of the church would remain unchanged was in aligning us with the church. He used guile, shame, a desire to belong and pressure from those around us to try and attain this goal. He starved us out, causing finances, prayers and support to be withheld. He told us that if we were truly called to do what we were doing, wouldn’t there be more fruit? And so many listened, so many joined the great calf brain of the church and began singing the same song that it has appeared that there was no hope of ever seeing any real change occur. But God… Today, if you hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts. Step up, step out and apply all of the pressure to the church’s direction that God has placed within you. You are the outside force, the unbalanced force that God is using to steer the Old Ship of Zion back on course. Don’t you despair, you are not alone, my friends, you are right where you need to be.

Just be the change.

By Our Life or By Our Death

We, as Christians, are finding out very quickly that the generation gap being experienced today is unlike any other transition time in history. We live in a time of post-modern thought that has run headlong into modern thinking and there does not seem to be any peace accord in the works. Post-modern thinking began to firmly take root in the 50’s and 60’s but for many of those people, for which post-modern thought was learned, it is hard to convince them that they are, in fact, not moderns.

If you take a look at differences in generations, it is not all that hard to see the patterns. Compare, for instance, the generation of the 60’s with the generation of the 40’s. Whereas one gave everything for the cause of freedom, not shirking their duty and enduring hardships for the greater good, the other slowly poisoned society with rhetoric until they had almost ruined this nation. From the time of the Warren Court to the end of Carter’s administration, we were a nation in decline. Only when Reagan took office in 1980 did we begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel. We started to think differently, we began to think in line with the Greatest Generation and our country had to learn a whole new vocabulary. We exchanged cowardly détente policies for the simple word “win”. We began to hound the Communists anywhere they were, even bypassing liberal cowards in Congress to get the weapons that anti-Marxist forces needed to them.

America started to remember herself again.

In the church, we have yet to see the problem. At the end of the 60’s, when the Jesus People began to seek Christ, we adapted to more suit them. We took out hymns, crosses, standards of dress and straight words from our churches. When the “me” generation of the 70’s began to seek Christ, we further fell from tradition and began to sound and look more and more like the world that was coming in. In the 80’s when greed infested the world, we quickly made room for it in our pulpits, embracing teachings that in no way resemble biblical Christianity. And on and on it has gone. We have been bamboozled, undermined, led astray and deceived by leaders who hold to a system of thought that runs in direct contradiction to who we are supposed to be in the church.

Today, the church has become a shadow of what it once was. We fill great buildings with people rushing to hear how they are okay. We sing about how Jesus is our boyfriend and allow weak, emasculated men to shirk their duties in the church, in our families and in this nation.

But how did we get here?

A philosophy was birthed during the Renaissance and it found a political a social voice during the Enlightenment. It has become the standard base of all thought during our times. It can be called Humanistic Autonomy, the autonomy of man from God. The only worship this thinking knows is the pursuit of material goods, the only God is itself. The greatest goal that a man can achieve in his life is his own contentment and there is no low that cannot be fixed with social programs, medication or therapy.

In Humanistic society, there is no evil. All anti-social acts can be attributed to poverty, poor parenting, ethnic angst or lack of education, never to fallen man’s nature or the primitive idea of evil. Add to this base of thought the new ideas of tolerance, unilateralism and multiculturalism and you have a recipe for the destruction of Christianity as we know it.

Our generation is one that has been raised with the perceived absence of God. He is a nice idea, some mysterious force (if anything is there at all) that watches us from a distance but is not active in this world in any way. Their God is their own belly and Crowley’s maxim of “Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” has been nationally accepted.

And with the church in its current state, there is absolutely no hope that any of it will turn around.

The army of God in the church has fallen into a deep food coma from which no one is waking. We accept the morals of the world as our own with nary a fight, all in the name of being “edgy”. To take a stand marks you as intolerant or a hater, totally out of step with conventional thought and therefore, someone who should be ignored, or worse, purged. The code of the herd is all that matters and the rights of the few trump the rights of the many.

And yet, in the midst of all of this, where is the lion’s roar from the mouths of God’s servants? Where is the call for revival, the return to consecration? Anyone who dares buck convention and cries out about the insidious dangers worming their way into our body like a parasite is quickly reprimanded for his “anger”. We shower support on false prophets who tell us lies and we fill the churches of the soft-sell panderer who makes you feel ‘nice’. But the cry of the concerned is left to starve out and the places that need the most help are overlooked as our preachers jockey for the position of being the “next big thing”.

My friends, this should not be so.

If we do not rouse ourselves now, in this hour, we will lose this nation and we will lose this generation. We must restore the ancient paths in the church of Jesus Christ. We must enable our preachers to cry loud and spare not. We must begin to work earnestly in the harvest fields of rural America, planting churches where we can still make a difference right now. We must remember what real masculinity and femininity consists of and begin to shine like a light in the midst of this crooked generation. We must stop being concerned with being nice and fight like our forefathers did when the evil of European liberal thought attacked the church at the turn of the last century.

There is not a second to lose, not a moment.

I am begging you to take a stand right now, at the turning of the tide. Let the battle cry be raised from Maine to California “By my life or by my death, may Christ be glorified!”